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Red Sox pregame notes: Mookie Betts adapting to major league outfield; Wednesday starter to be announced after Tuesday’s game

07.08.14 at 8:18 pm ET
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At 21 years old and just five games into his major league career, Mookie Betts has plenty to learn about being a big league baseball player.

But maybe the most notable difference for a rookie is the adjustment to be made in the field, especially for someone like Betts who has yet to establish a full-time position.

Betts spent almost all of his first two full pro seasons in the minor leagues as a second baseman. But with Dustin Pedroia locked up at second and the Red Sox thin in terms of outfield production, he was forced to make the switch to the outfield.

Betts has seen time in both right and center field for the Sox so far. On Tuesday, he’ll play center and bat ninth against the White Sox.

Betts has had the challenge of not only adapting to relatively new and different positions, but also doing so at the highest level of baseball.

“There’s, I think, drastic differences between here and Pawtucket, particularly in Mookie’s case where he’s changing positions,” manager John Farrell said Tuesday. “He’s not facing the strength of hitters that he sees here in defending them that he’s seen in the minor league level. That’s a world apart if you ask me.

“The reads off the bat, how quick he gets to the spot prevent runners from taking an extra base. Rather than drifting back he’s got to get to the spot and come through to make the transfer on a throw.

“The speed of the game is different and that’s an adjustment period guys are going to go through.”

Farrell said Betts’ reads off the bat have been “OK” so far, and that he could be a little more aggressive in the field.

“These things are new to him, going from the infield to the center of attention in the outfield and directing guys on either side of him, that’s asking a lot,” he said. “And yet, this is a bright young kid who’s not fearful of the situation, but he’s still developing.”

Farrell added: “We’re putting the guy in a ballpark that he’s not totally familiar with. He’s gaining familiarity with it. There’s a comfort level that he’s gained over the 45 games that he’s played. We’re careful not to just have him have his heels on the warning track. But with it, comes some guidance that he goes through, and we’re not trying to take a cautious approach with him too deep.”

Farrell said he’s focused on developing Betts as an outfielder and doesn’t necessarily want him jumping between all three outfield spots.

“The questioning might lead to where’s his ultimate position? That remains to be seen,” he said.

In terms of his offense, Farrell said Betts has the tools to be a top-of-the-order hitter.

“That’s probably going to be dependent on who else is with him in the lineup,” Farrell said. “You’d like to think his ability to make contact, his speed, that’s kind of a top-of-the-order kind of guy. But we’re a ways away from him getting his feet on the ground and fully getting established to expose him to that spot.”

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

– Farrell said Wednesday’s spot starter will be announced after Tuesday’s game. He said it will “will coincide with a move of some sort.” One possibility would be a trade, with Jake Peavy an obvious candidate to be dealt.

– Despite hitting .304 in his last 14 games, Jackie Bradley Jr. is out of the lineup Tuesday night. Farrell said the decision coincided with the three left-handed pitchers the Sox are set to face in the next three days. He said he also wants to makes sure to rotate young players such as Bradley, Betts and Brock Holt into the order.

Farrell said he expects Bradley to be in the lineup on Wednesday and through the final five games before the All-Star break. He said Holt will likely play shortstop Wednesday in place of Stephen Drew.

When asked if the Red Sox‘ last-place spot in the standings will have an affect on his lineup, Farrell said, “Not at all. No one’s turned the page on the situation we’re in right now.”

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